HR Update

By Lynne Curry


Lynne Curry, Avitus Group


What don't you know yet and how will it help you to find out?


What are your competitors doing that wins them repeat customers? How do your best clients think you and your company stack up against the competition?

What are your managers doing that will cost you good employees in the next year? Which of your midlevel managers deserves a promotion to principal?

In the past three decades, we have helped many of our construction clients benefit from client surveys and 360-degree reviews. Through client surveys, they find out where they are hitting (or not) the mark with their clients. With 360-degree reviews, they learn what their employees think — but don’t dare say — about their managers.

Here’s what you need to know to implement both strategies.


Client surveys


Client surveys can help you retain clients, gain new projects through top-of-mind visibility and remain competitive with other companies that recently stepped up their game. While you can send out an email survey, an interviewer listens to what each client says about your company, or “Company X” in the scenario below, and digs deeper when an initial answer reveals pay dirt underneath.

Valuable questions to ask include:

“What is your opinion of Company X’s standing in comparison with other companies providing similar services?”

“What does Company X do well?”

“Are there problems they need to fix?”

“What improvements could Company X make to better serve you?”

“What are the reasons you return to Company X for repeat projects?”

“What business would you consider giving to another firm because Company X lacks the needed expertise?”

One interviewee’s answer to the last question led to the realization that the client lacked awareness of Company X’s full capabilities and resulted in our client being able to contract with their client for a $300,000 project.

“If you could offer one piece of advice to Company X, what would it be?”

In response to this question, we learned one of our clients had lost more than $200,000 in future projects due to the rudeness of their billing personnel, who responded defensively when made aware of repeated invoicing errors. The interviewee’s firm had mentioned the issue to a project manager, but the manager had missed the depth of their client’s irritation. We were able to ask, “If they guarantee they’ve fixed this, would you give them another chance?”


360-degree reviews


Are your managers getting the results you need them to? If not, what’s getting in their way and how can you convince your managers to make needed changes? A 360-degree review provides you and your manager clear, concise information concerning each individual manager’s strengths and areas needing improvement.

Here’s how it works: Seven to 11 individuals receive a form asking for confidential, detailed information in 12 to 18 areas concerning the manager. A neutral third party receives the responses, follows up with phone calls to ask further questions and compiles a detailed summary of everything provided by two or more of the respondents. Because the third party writes the summary in her/her own words and uses the “two-person bar,” those who give comments receive a reasonable measure of confidentiality.

Useful questions include:

“How does this manager handle leadership and present him/herself as a role model?”

“What can you say about how X works with people?”

“What can you say about how this manager makes judgment calls?”

“What can you say about this manager’s work ethic?’

“Do you trust this manager?”

“What do you wish this manager would do differently?”

Here’s a sample of what you might learn:

1. What can you say about Mr. Sample’s work product?

Seven of the eight interviewees described Mr. Sample’s work product as excellent or high quality. Although these seven interviewees view Sam as an extremely capable, hard worker, three of them noted that Mr. Sample leaves too many projects unfinished due to his “perfectionist reworking of assignments.”

2. How does Mr. Sample handle leadership and present himself as a role model?

Five of the eight interviewees state that they didn’t view Mr. Sample as a leader or even someone interested in leadership. Two interviewees commented that Mr. Sample needs to realize he leads (or doesn’t) by example, and when he refuses to accept accountability for his errors, blaming his employees, he loses their respect.

3. What can you say concerning how Mr. Sample works with people?

Four of the eight interviewees commented that Mr. Sample responds defensively to even constructively worded criticism.

As you can imagine, it’s invaluable to your company when your managers receive candid feedback, motivating them to change in significant, needed ways. Each 360-degree review and client survey includes a detailed recommendations section based on the findings.


Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” and “Solutions,” consults with construction firms to create real solutions to real workplace challenges. Her company’s services include HR on-call (a-lacarte HR), investigations, mediation, management/employee training, executive coaching, 360-degree employee reviews and organizational strategy services. You can reach her at; through her website,; and via her workplace 911/411 blog,